Piecing Together a U.S. Marine's WWII History

September 22, 2014 3:52 PM

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Piecing Together a U.S. Marine's WWII History

Growing up in the late fifties and sixties, World War II seemed so long ago, the stuff of family legend at the dinner table (stories about relatives and neighbors who had served and returned, and relatives and neighbors who had served and did not return), or the subject of thrilling black and white feature films at the local cinema or drive-in. Our personal favorites included "From Here to Eternity" (1953), "The Bridge Over the River Kwai" (1957), "The Longest Day" (1962), and of course the JFK bio pic, "PT 109" (1963). But without a doubt the depiction that made the war the stuff of popular American culture was the weekly television series "Combat," which ran every week on primetime from 1962 to 1967, and starred the irrepressible Vic Morrow, whose image comes to mind whenever those of us in our sixties think of a prototypical World War II combat soldier.

Similarly, when we both encountered World War II Army enlistment photos of our own relatives -- Henry Louis Gates, Sr. and Delbert Clair -- we were surprised how much a military uniform can transform a person's bearing. These photos transcended the nostalgia and legend of the World War II soldier an...

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